‘Hook, Line, and Hatteras’ tells the history
of charter fishing on the Outer Banks
By JORDAN TOMBERLIN
Friday, Aug. 10, a team of six designers, fabricators, curators, and
archivists from the North Carolina Maritime Museum system wrapped up
the bulk of their work on the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum’s newest
exhibit—“Hook, Line, and Hatteras: Charter Fishing on the Outer Banks.”
The exhibit is the result of years of planning and preparation and,
once fully completed, will celebrate the history of recreational
fishing on the Outer Banks and will focus particularly on charter
fishing in Hatteras.
“We’ve been planning this for a long time,” said museum director Joe
Schwarzer. “The history of fishing is integral to the history of the
Mike Carraway, the exhibits curator for the North Carolina Maritime
Museum System, said that the exhibit fits perfectly with the overall
mission of the museum system—to preserve the culture of Eastern North
Carolina’s maritime history. He added that, with this exhibit in
particular, they had a unique opportunity, through the cooperation of
volunteers and local fishermen, to tell what is essentially a truly
Indeed, many of the artifacts and photos that comprise the exhibit have
been donated or loaned to the museum by local fishermen and their
families, and the stories they represent have been lovingly preserved
by generations of islanders.
Both Schwarzer and the design team noted that one local couple in
particular, Ernie and Lynne Foster, have been integral to the exhibit,
providing original artifacts—such as flags, tackle, electronics, and
the rod and reel on which the world-record blue marlin was caught—and
sharing information and stories that illuminate the history and
significance of recreational fishing.
In a bit of serendipity, the completion of the exhibit coincides with
the 75th anniversary of the Albatross Fleet, which was started by Ernie
Foster’s father, Ernal, in 1937 and ushered in the era of charter
fishing in Hatteras.
The exhibit itself, though, does not merely tell the story of the
Albatross Fleet. Instead, it attempts to chart the development of
recreational fishing over the course of the past century or so.
It begins around 1900, providing a snapshot of what life was like in
Hatteras before the bridge and the subsequent advent of the tourist
industry—a time when the island was characterized by near total
isolation and fishing was not so much a sport as it was a necessity.
The exhibit then depicts the transition from sail to motor power, a
move which allowed fishermen to go offshore in a more scheduled and
regulated way and helped pave the way for the development of a fishing
also shows museum-goers what Hatteras was like in the 1930s—a time when
the nascent charter fishing industry was supported by only the most
intrepid of adventurers, those who had the will and the means to brave
the Oregon Inlet ferry and travel 50 or so sandy miles into Hatteras
It follows the development of charter fishing from those early
adventures to the 1950s, when charter fishing began in earnest, to its
tournament heyday, to its current incarnation.
Along the way, viewers will find artifacts and images that not only
serve to authenticate and underscore the story of recreation fishing on
the Outer Banks, but also to ground that history in the local
As Schwarzer noted, fishing has been an integral part of Hatteras
Island’s history for 400 years, and it continues to be an important
part of the island’s economic and cultural identity. He added that,
“one of the things we’re hoping this exhibit will do is get other local
people to tell their stories.”
There are, of course, many reasons to preserve such artifacts and
collect such stories. One of those reasons is that, according to
Schwarzer, the history of fishing on the Outer Banks will feature
prominently in the museum’s permanent exhibits.
“Hook, Line, and Hatteras” is a temporary exhibit, meaning it will
likely stay up for a couple of years. However, the story of fishing on
the Outer Banks will be a permanent part of the Graveyard of the
Atlantic Museum experience—it will be told over and over again, from
different angles, featuring different aspects—throughout the museum’s
As Schwarzer pointed out, charter fishing “is only part of the story.”
It is, however, the most visible and accessible part of the story for
visitors and tourists alike, and so it is the first part of the story
that will be told at the museum.
Though the crew from the Maritime Museum system has a few finishing
touches to put on the exhibit—there are a few more items coming in and
a few more plaques and identification cards that need to be mounted—the
exhibit is currently open to museum visitors.
Schwarzer said that a formal opening is in the works, though the museum has not set a date for that event at this time.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is open Monday through Saturday
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, though donations are
For more information on the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, you can call (252) 986-2995, visit their website at http://www.graveyardoftheatlantic.com/, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.